1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
The overall goal of the research project which is formulated as a real partnership between ARS and Western Kentucky University (WKU) is to conduct cost effective and problem solving research associated with animal waste management. The research will evaluate management practices and treatment strategies that protect water quality, reduce atmospheric emissions, and control pathogens at the animal production facilities, manure storage areas, and field application sites, particularly for the karst topography. This Project Plan is a unique situation in the sense that non-ARS scientists from WKU are included on an in-house project to conduct research under the NP 214. The objectives and related specific sub-objectives for the next 5 years are organized according to the Components (Nutrient, Emission, Pathogen, and Byproduct) of the NP 214, which mostly apply to this project as follows: 1) develop improved best management practices, application technologies, and decision support systems for poultry and livestock manure used in crop production; 2) develop methods to identify and quantify emissions, from poultry, dairy and swine rearing operations and manure applied lands; 3) reduce ammonia, odors, microorganisms and particulate emissions from dairy, swine and poultry operations through the use of treatment systems (e.g. biofilters and scrubbers) and innovative management practices; 4) perform runoff and leaching experiments on a variety of soils amended with dairy, swine, or poultry manures infected with Campylobacter jejuni (C. jejuni), Salmonella sp. or Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) and compare observed transport with that observed for common indicator organisms such as E. coli, enterococci, and Bacteriodes; and 5) use molecular-based methodologies to quantify the occurrence of pathogens and evaluate new methods to inhibit their survival and transport in soil, water, and waste treatment systems.
1b. Approach (from AD-416):
This in-house project was conceived as a cooperative/partnership and comprehensive research program between USDA-ARS Animal Waste Management Research Unit (AWMRU) and Western Kentucky University (WKU). The project is designed to utilize the scientific expertise and facilities of both institutions to conduct problem-solving research related to animal waste management in Kentucky and the southeastern U.S. The research effort will be multi-disciplinary and multifaceted in support of decision making and systems development. Research focuses will be on all four components (Nutrient, Atmospheric Emission, Pathogens, and By-products) of the National Program 214. In lieu of repeatedly stating the equipment used for analysis, please note that the state-of-the-art laboratories and equipments exist at both AWMRU and WKU, which can be accessed by the scientists including land at the WKU research station. Main instruments include: ICP, GC-MS, 2 GCs, Latchet, 2 C/N Analyzers, IC, HPLC, Real-time PCR, etc.
3. Progress Report:
The research conducted under this project plan addresses several objectives/sub-objectives investigating environmental problems related to the use of animal manure and agricultural waste including nutrients, pathogens, greenhouse gases, odor causing volatile organic compounds, dust and sediment associated with animal production facilities and manure application sites. The research also determines best management practices (BMPs) for crop production on land receiving agricultural waste with regard to crop management and soil types particularly in unique “karst topography”. Following are examples of research related activities and progress for this project: Characterizing Environmental Isolates as Surrogates for Human Pathogens Associated with Animal Manures: ARS researchers in Bowling Green, Kentucky, conducted studies to identify properties of indicators that contribute to their occurrence and survival in association with produce in a manner similar to that of pathogens. ARS scientists collaborated with Western Kentucky University and characterized the adherence and growth of Escherichia coli (E. coli) isolates in greenhouse studies using fresh produce. The ARS scientist involved in this study has been asked to give a talk at the annual meeting of the Arkansas Association for Food Protection in association with this work. Aspects of this work have been presented at national and international meetings. Addressing Antibiotic Resistance (AR) Associated with Agro-ecosystems: An ARS scientist received an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) fellowship for a project entitled “Addressing the Global Challenge of Antibiotic Resistance: Characterizing Antibiotic Resistance Elements Associated with Agricultural Ecosystems”. This research is currently being conducted in collaboration with the Julius-Kuhn Institute in Braunschweig, Germany. The goal of the project is to evaluate mechanisms of transfer of mobile genetic elements (i.e. plasmids/transposons) between microbial populations in poultry litters and soils with applied litters. The ARS scientist is co-organizer for a Soil Science Society of America Special Symposium funded by SSSA and Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) entitled “Soils as the new frontier in antibiotic and antibiotic resistance discovery” and an ASA symposium entitled “Characterizing and Controlling Insects and Bacteria associated with manure-impacted environments”. This ARS scientist also works with a multi-ARS Unit initiative to organize ARS research on AR Bacteria and characterize resistance in environmental isolates of E. coli. Evaluating Transport of E. coli through Karst Environments: An ARS scientist from Bowling Green is collaborating with Western Kentucky University on a National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) funded fellowship project entitled “Mobility of 15N-tagged Escherichia coli within karst aquifers, Kentucky, USA”. As part of this project transport studies have been conducted in conjunction with natural rainfall events to evaluate the transport of Escherichia coli (E. coli) within karst watersheds in northern and southern Kentucky. These studies are field-based and will be conducted at Lexington, Kentucky, and at Crumps Cave in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Data from these studies has been presented at several conferences. Ongoing field studies using the developed analytical methods for air analyses (sub-objective 2.1): Field experiments were performed this past year at a cooperating poultry production facility in Kentucky where measured particulate matter concentrations and size distributions for the duration of a flock being raised and sold. Data analysis is ongoing. Write-ups of previous experiments performed in support of sub-objective 2.2 continues in collaboration with the University of California, Riverside and the Claremont Colleges and two papers are in the editing phase. The focus over the time of these studies has shifted to the interaction of gas-phase nitrogen-containing compounds and sulfur-containing compounds A research proposal to the National Science Foundation was funded (to UC Riverside and ARS) and will support continuation of these collaborative studies for another three years. Research is being conducted in collaboration with researchers at North Carolina State University, University of Georgia, Oklahoma State University, University of Tennessee, Texas A&M University, Mississippi State University, and University of Florida to compare and evaluate accuracy of phosphorus indices from 10 states using water quality monitoring data collected in multiple watersheds and predictions of phosphorus (P) loss from these watersheds using fate-and-transport models. To date we have conducted model simulations for several sites in Georgia and North Carolina and have evaluated the model predictions with measured values of P loss. We have also calculated risk of P loss from several sites in Texas and Oklahoma using several phosphorus indices and have compared these risk assessments with measured P loss data. Research is being conducted in collaboration with researchers at North Carolina State University, University of Georgia, and Oklahoma State University to compare model predictions between daily and annual time step phosphorus loss models. Annual time step models are generally simpler and easier to use than daily time step models and thus are available for use by a larger audience. However, annual time step models by necessity neglect some important processes and therefore are generally viewed as less accurate than daily time step models, though direct comparisons between these models have not been conducted. This research will provide important insights into the potential differences in accuracy between daily and annual time step models and will help determine whether easy-to-use annual time step models provide reasonably good predictions of P loss compared with daily time step models to justify their use in nutrient management planning. Research investigating the effects of manure application rate and timing on transport of antibiotic resistant bacteria through soils is near completion. This research investigated whether the transport of antibiotic bacteria and their associated genes through a fine sand and a loamy sand soil is affected by the amount of manure applied and by the time interval between manure application and application of water to the soil. All experiments have been completed. Data analysis and interpretation is ongoing. This work is in support of Subobjective 4.1: Conduct transport experiments with pathogenic and indicator bacteria through soil and aquifer materials. Field study monitoring and optimization of biochemical factors on methane production from a complete mixing anaerobic digestion system (300K gallons) of poultry litter and potential co-substrates is in progress to understand the effect of operating parameters and feedstock on biogas production. Just completed, an intensive air quality monitoring study around livestock productions such as a novel high-rise-slatted-floor swine production system was carried out to understand the various characteristics of livestock air pollution for potential future adaptation of treatment system. Emissions of ammonia and greenhouse gases are being monitored from these swine production systems to see the effect of management and housing systems on the potential emissions. In the near future, these finding will be utilized and tested on a pilot-scale biofiltration systems to remove odors and greenhouse gases from livestock polluted air for use as feedstock for biofuel production. ARS scientists continued collaboration with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) scientists on a field study evaluating the impact of poultry manure, cover crop, and crop rotation on soil health and corn and soybeans yield. Also, ARS scientists are studying greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions from a new experiment on corn receiving poultry manure. Experiments with continuously fed anaerobic digesters developed to study production of biogas from poultry slaughterhouse wastewater. Valve switching systems were developed to control the flow of wastewater and gases. This is part of a dual research project to enhance production of biogas from low strength wastewater and also attempt to enhance the yield of methane from wastewater by stripping it from wastewater by using lower solubility gases. Also, digesters were constructed to investigate bubble dynamics in wastewater in an attempt to influence partitioning of biogas between the gaseous and dissolved/suspended states. Preliminary results indicate that as much of 50% of potential biogas produced by anaerobic digesters is wasted in effluent rather than being utilized. Using under water sound to destabilized suspended bubbles within the wastewater has the potential to greatly improve biogas production from anaerobic digesters. In another study, wastewater quality and biogas production from a commercial anaerobic digester utilizing poultry litter were investigated. Poultry litter digestate was characterized by high wastewater strength but low biogas quality with unusually high bicarbonate and solvated carbon dioxide concentrations. Generator startup is anticipated soon and we will be working with the producer to improve digestate utilization and in lowering carbon dioxide levels.
1. Effect of land application of poultry litter (PL) on survival of pathogens, indicators and genes for antibiotic resistance. PL is a valuable nutrient source for crop production, however land application without prior treatment may be a route of plant, soil or water contamination with manure-borne bacteria. In fact, two of the top bacterial causes of illness, Campylobacter sp. and Salmonella sp. are manure-borne pathogens that are found in association with poultry and PL. ARS scientists in Bowling Green, KY, in collaboration with scientists at Western Kentucky University, characterized the fate of naturally occurring pathogens, fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) and organisms containing antibiotic resistance genes (ARG) following application of PL to soils under conventional or no-till management. It was demonstrated that pathogens survive in soils with applied poultry litter in ways that are difficult to predict using common indicator organisms (i.e. E. coli) as surrogates for the manure borne pathogens. Application rates (including bacterial load and nutrients) and re-application of litter in the second year had more influence on microbial populations (particularly those with ARG) than did differences in tillage. These data provide new knowledge about survival of important FIB, pathogens, and ARG associated with PL applied under realistic field-based conditions.
2. Nitrogen source and application method impact on corn yield and nutrient uptake. Farmers are looking for better management practices to utilize animal manure as an alternative to chemical fertilizers. ARS scientists from Bowling Green, KY, conducted field experiments to study the effects of N fertilizer source and application methods to Nicholson silt loam soil in central Kentucky on no-till corn production. N fertilizer was applied as preplant and sidedress are equivalent amount of N was applied as swine effluent by three methods (broadcast, injection, and aeration) too. Results demonstrated that the swine effluent application methods and the timing of nitrogen application may not be agronomically important for corn production in this region. This research gives farmers scientifically-based information for determining the source, method, and timing of N application for corn production, thereby optimizing nutrient use for yield and environmental benefits.
3. No-till corn response to subsurface application of poultry litter. Poultry litter is generally land-applied by surface broadcast as a source of plant nutrients, particularly nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), for crop production. This practice is not efficient because of potential nutrient losses and environmental problems such as reduced water and air quality. ARS scientists from Bowling Green, KY, conducted a collaborative study using a new implement recently developed by ARS scientists at another location that allows subsurface application of dry poultry litter with minimal soil surface disturbance. Results indicated that poultry litter application by subsurface method resulted in corn grain and aboveground biomass yields similar to standard commercial fertilizer and better than broadcast application method. Results from this study suggest that subsurface banding of poultry litter can be utilized as an alternate application method in a no-till corn system without detrimental impacts on corn productivity.
4. Composting swine manure for stabilization and volume reduction. Over the last 30 years, animal production has become increasingly intensive with fewer operations producing larger numbers of animals. Composting swine slurries has several advantages: liquid slurries are converted to solids at lower moisture, the total volume and weight of material is reduced, and the stabilized product is more easily transported off-site. Despite this, swine waste is generally stored, treated and applied in its liquid form. High-rise finishing facilities (HRFF) permit liquid slurries to be converted to solids which are partially decomposed underneath the HRFF and then finished in compost windrows. ARS scientists from Bowling Green, KY, in collaboration with University of Kentucky Extension and a swine producer evaluated the effect of turning frequency and ambient weather conditions on biological, physical and chemical properties of composted slurry-woodchip mixtures from HRFF. Results suggest that it is feasible to finish swine HRFF materials in windrows. Volume reduction, low moisture and low readily degradable organic matter suggest that the finished compost would have lower transportation costs and should provide value as a soil conditioner.
5. Evaluation of model uncertainty using a field-scale phosphorus (P) loss model. Research was conducted to evaluate the effect of model parameter errors on model prediction uncertainties for the Annual P Loss Estimator (APLE) model, a commonly used model developed by ARS for evaluating P loss from agricultural fields. Because models are often used to predict phosphorus loss from agricultural fields, it is important to evaluate the impact that model parameter uncertainties have on model prediction uncertainties. ARS scientist from Bowling Green, KY, collaborated with other ARS scientists to improve the accuracy of the model parameter uncertainties through regression analyses using laboratory and field data. These uncertainties were incorporated into the APLE model to evaluate how these uncertainties affect overall model predictions of phosphorus loss. The relative magnitude of these uncertainties was compared to the magnitude of model input uncertainties. Results from this research demonstrate that uncertainties associated with phosphorus loss models can be relatively high and that reasonable estimates of model parameter uncertainties must be incorporated into phosphorus loss models.
6. Understanding the effect of different nutrients on biogas production from anaerobic digestion of tannery sludge wastewater. The tanning industry is one of the most highly polluted industries in the world. Tannery sludge contains recalcitrant chemicals which could make them resistant to microbial decomposition and prevent methane production. Furthermore, tannery sludge is deficient in the necessary nutrients which could affect the biogas production. Researchers from the ARS unit in Bowling Green, KY, along with scientists from Mexico, conducted experiments to understand the effect of different nutrients on biogas production from tannery sludge wastewater plant. The results showed that the addition of simple sugar (glucose), iron, and sulfate did not significantly increase the rate of biogas production. However, decreasing the carbon to nitrogen ratios by adding more nitrate and urea to the system increased the biogas production. The knowledge gained from this study could be useful for farmers and producers when carrying out anaerobic digestion of agro-industrial waste sludge to obtain biogas for power generation and maintaining sustainability.
7. Identification and characterization of microorganisms capable of reducing the toxicity of heavy metals. Heavy metal contamination poses a serious threat to both environment and human health. Thus, development of remediation strategies for heavy metals polluted soils is important for ecological conservation and health risk. A number of micro-organisms inhabiting soil and water can transform these toxic metals into a nontoxic form (biotransformation), which could reduce these toxic metals in the food chain. Researchers from ARS in Bowling Green, KY, along with scientists from the Chonbuk University in South Korea, isolated and identified microorganisms that were able to transform lead heavy metal from toxic to non-toxic form. Application of sesame oil cake extract enhanced the bacterial activity in mine drainage soils. Total lead (about 39%) was successfully transformed in mine drainage soils with sesame oil cake extract amendment. The utilization of oil cake extract not only increased the transformation rate but also improved soil quality. The present study provides a potential eco-friendly and sustained way for reducing the toxicity of lead and other heavy metal contaminants from mine drainage soils and as well as from contaminated agricultural lands.
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